Many artists self-present at some point in their careers, assuming the entire financial burden of creation and presentation. Though this is a big undertaking, it can be very rewarding. With self-presentation comes the freedom of showing your work in a venue of your choosing and having complete control over all aspects of presenting, including marketing. Consult our list of rental venues for a list of spaces available to rent for self-presentation.
If you decide to self-present your work, it is important to begin by deciding what is truly necessary to produce your work. If you require a real theatre, with professional lighting and sound equipment, theatre seats and a box office, be prepared for a high cost. If you decide to present in a less conventional space, be prepared for extra work and logistical planning.
Before contacting a theatre, determine your needs. Use this downloadable venue worksheet to formulate the right questions when shopping for a venue. Ask the administrators to send you their ‘tech specs’, which includes a list all of the lighting, sound and other equipment, the seating capacity, a description the dressing rooms and a floor plan.
Tip : For help finding a venue, consult our directory of local theatres available for independent dance productions.
When thinking about non-traditional venues, consider how the setting will contextualize your event. For instance, your work will be seen from distinctly different perspectives if it is shown in a bar, an art gallery, a church or a storefront window. Open spaces such as rehearsal studios and galleries can be good for showing work that doesn’t require special lighting or presenting works-in-progress in order to get feedback from peers. Be creative when brainstorming alternative spaces for independent productions. Consider schools, churches, community centres, parks… the possibilities are endless.
There is growing interest in Québec for outdoor dance performances. While obtaining permission to perform in a public outdoor space will require you to obtain a permit from the city, it may be an excellent way to reach a public who would never have the chance to see your performance in a theater. Creating an outdoor performance may also lead to presentation opportunities with festivals and presenters who are specifically looking to fill this niche in their programming.
Tip: When planning a performance in a non-traditional venue, or public space (like a park), it is important to find out if you require a special permit or permission from the city, and to confirm that your space meets any legal safety requirements for a public event (for example, easily accessible fire exits).
Consider joining forces with 2 or 3 other choreographers. Together, you can share the work of organizing and promoting your event. Self-presenting is a big undertaking, and it may be more viable if you have partners to share the work, cost, and responsibility with.
You could also consider bringing together an even larger number of artists for a one-off multi-artist performance party. This kind of event can provide not only a performance opportunity, but a chance to build a community around your artistic practice.
When you are self-producing, you have control not over where you present your work, but when. As you consider an ideal timing for your event, think about what your goal for this presentation is. If you are hoping to make money through ticket sales, you might consider presenting at a time of the year where there is less cultural activity, which may make it easier to attract more audience members. If you are interested in gaining exposure for your work, presenting as an ‘off’ event during a larger festival like the FTA or CINARS can allow you to take advantage of an influx of out-of-town presenters and artists. If you want reviews, then participating in the Fringe Festival, may help you to attract bloggers and critics.
If the idea of self-producing a show seems like too big of a project, consider organizing a simple studio showing. Rent a studio space and invite friends, and colleagues to come and see your work without charging a fee. This can be a low-pressure, low-risk way to share you work, experiment and receive feedback. Inviting presenters to a studio showing can also be a good strategy for finding a future presentation opportunity.